Hike Half Dome in Yosemite

08/17/2016

Hiking Half Dome was my biggest goal for 2016, and so I was very happy when we were granted a permit!

Prior to Half Dome, the most I’ve hiked was only about 8 miles, and this was when I hiked Mt. Baldy in the Angeles National Forest. I wanted to challenge myself by doing Half Dome, so I invited my husband and two other friends to do it with me. Fortunately, they were all up for the challenge! So we applied for the permits together, and secured our canvas tents in Half Dome Village right away, even before the lottery results came out (our planned visit fell on a holiday weekend, so it was best to secure a site ASAP).

The day of our hike, we woke up at around 4am to get ready, and by exactly 5am we started making our way to the trail head located in Happy Isles (aka shuttle stop #16). We planned on going up through the Mist Trail, and then heading back down through the John Muir Trail, which is 16.5 miles total.

The whole hike took us through a lot of different viewpoints and noteworthy spots, which made the hike so much more exciting. If you ever plan on hiking Half Dome yourself, here are the notable checkpoints you’ll encounter along the trail. The mile marker is based off of the Happy Isles trail head.

VERNAL FALLS BRIDGE (0.8 miles)

vernal falls bridgeThis bridge crosses through the Merced River, and gives you a sneak peak of Vernal Falls. This is also where you’ll get to refill your water bladder/bottles for the last time. Bathrooms also provided.

MIST TRAIL TO THE TOP OF VERNAL FALLS (1.5 miles)

vernal falls along mist trailExpect to hike through uneven rocky stairs at this location. If you love doing the stair-master at the gym, then this part of the trail will be very easy for you. Lol. This is also where you’ll get to see the 317-foot Vernal Falls.

Be careful while making your way up (or down), because the wet rocks tend to be really slippery!

hiking mist trailOnce you reach the top of Vernal Falls, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the valley floor.

vernal falls viewhiking half domeEMERALD POOLS (1.6 miles)

We passed by beautiful calm waters, and it was so tempting to take a dip! But swimming here is not allowed because of the currents. You will also find vault toilets along this section of the trail.

NEVADA FALLS (3.4 miles)

nevada falls yosemite national parknevada falls along mist trailAs you continue to make your way up the trail, through the woods, and some rocky switchbacks, you will eventually come across the 595-foot high Nevada Falls.

The top of Nevada Falls is where you’ll find the last bathroom stop, so be sure to stop here before continuing the hike to Half Dome.

MERCED RIVER

calm merced riverThis part of the trail was so nice because it was relatively flat, and you’ll be able to walk right next to the Merced River. I appreciated the scenery here because it was so calm. Be sure to enjoy this part, because not too far ahead, the trail starts to become challenging again.

SUB DOME (7.8 miles)

After about 4 more miles of hiking, you will finally reach the Sub Dome, which is the first dome you will encounter before reaching the part with the cables. This part of the hike made my knees shake a lot, because of the steep (and difficult) switchbacks you’ll have to hike through. Be careful of loose rocks along the trail!

THE CABLES

half dome yosemiteI was feeling really tired after reaching the top of the subdome, but once I saw the cables, I was pumped! I was so excited to finish the last stretch of the hike and get to the apex of Half Dome.

The rock was so slick, and what I thought was going to be an easy ascent for me (given my background in pole dancing, where I train my upper body a lot), turned out to be really challenging! The biggest challenge was having to go through the people already making their way down, because we had to stay off to one side to let them pass. The planks were definitely very helpful in letting us rest all throughout the ascent.

cables on half domeTOP OF HALF DOME (8.2 miles)

yosemite valley viewAfter 8.5 hours of hiking, we finally reached the top! The views were spec-tac-u-lar. No words can explain the euphoria I felt once we were at the top. It was such a big achievement for me, and to be rewarded with 360 views of Yosemite National Park was the best part of it all!

I have dreamed about that moment for months, and it was so surreal to be standing on top of Half Dome that day. Wish we could’ve stayed longer, but we still had another 8+ more miles to hike before reaching the valley floor, so at around 2pm we started making our way down.

JOHN MUIR TRAIL 

nevada falls topUpon reaching the Nevada Falls checkpoint again, we took the John Muir Trail instead of the Mist Trail, going down. It was an additional 1.5 miles, but it was a lot less steep and less slippery. Plus! It’s kinda cool to say that I was able to hike a small section of the John Muir Trail (*wink*)!

grayl water filteration water filter grayl water filter graylIf you have a water filtration device, this is the best place to get “river water” refills. My husband took his Grayl water filtration bottle, which was a purifier and filtration in one, and it was our first time testing it out. To my surprise, the water tasted great! I was so glad he had that, because I already finished up all the water that I brought with me, and we had a long way to go before reaching the water refilling station at the Vernal Falls Bridge.

grayl water filterThe best part of taking the John Muir Trail going down was the view of Nevada Falls next to Liberty Cap. It looked amazing! This is actually one of my favorite views of the whole trip.

john muir trail viewWe were finally able to reach the valley floor at around 8pm, and were completely exhausted and hungry. We headed back to Half Dome Village, showered, rewarded ourselves with good food, and went straight to bed.

We took longer than expected to finish the hike, because we took a lot of breaks in between! It’s a good thing the sun didn’t start setting until around 7:30pm.


NEED TO KNOW

Distance: 14.2-16.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

Permits/Fees: They only allow 300 hikers to go up the cables in Half Dome, and they pick using an online lottery system. Note that the cables are usually down during the winter months, so no one is permitted to climb the top during that time. Fees are $4.50 for the application, and $8/person for the permit.

Note: If you do not get a permit, you are still allowed to hike up until the base of Sub Dome. There are rangers who check in this area for permits, and you will be asked to turn around if you do not have one.

Important Things to Bring: For this hike, I recommend that you pack light and bring at least 4L of water. Water filters & purifiers are advisable, these turned out to be really helpful for us. Gloves are a must, for use on the cables. Just be sure to take it down with you. A lot of people left their gloves up where the cables were, and it was a sight for sore eyes 🙁

view from half domeEven if I was very tired that night after our hike, I couldn’t sleep at all because I was just reliving the whole experience in my head. It was sorta hard to believe that we just conquered Half Dome. We survived! I was so proud of all of us, especially myself!

xx Sassy


Have you ever hiked Half Dome before? If so, will you ever do it again?

If you’ve always wondered how this place looks like during the winter, you can check out my post about our visit to Yosemite National Park during Thanksgiving.

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23 Comments
      1. Yosemite is one of the places I keep coming back to! I’ll never get tired of it. It is sooo pretty out there! Excited for you to experience it yourself 🙂

    1. How lucky your were to get to experience such beauty first hand!

      1. Hi Ivonne! Thank you! It sure was worth the hike. I hope you get to see it for yourself, too!

    1. That’s awesome Sassy, congrats! Beautiful photos, I hope we can also get a permit when we go next year 🙂

    1. Awesome!! Half Dome has always seemed really intimidating to me, but this makes it seem more within my reach.

      All hiking posts should be like this, by the way. Inspiring images with actual useful information.

    1. I’m not an outdoorsy type of person at all. The most I do outdoors is to walk a very flat (and boring) trail at a park near our house. This hike sounds and looks outstanding! Thanks for taking me with you. :p

      1. Hi Noemi, a fellow pinay, kamusta? 🙂 Anyway, i’m glad you enjoyed this post! Hiking is not everyone’s favorite, even I sometimes dread long and difficult trails. Haha! But as long as you get to explore the world, then I guess you’re good 😉

    1. Omg such an amazing hike! Is there a way how to do it in parts, to stay somewhere in half of the way if you are not ready for the real deal at once? I would love to try this once!

      1. Hi Maja, yes! Some people camp in Little Yosemite Valley which is along the trail to Half Dome. A wilderness permit is required. Once you accomplish this, you will be so proud of yourself!

    1. Congratulations on successfully completing the Half Dome hike. I went to Yosemite last year and I fell in love with it. I was captivated by both El Capitan and Half dome. I could not do the hike last year. How challenging would you say this hike is for novice climbers like myself?

      1. Thank you so much, Soumya! El Capitan is also one of my faves. The rock formations (and waterfalls) in Yosemite are truly breathtaking 🙂

        It will definitely feel like it’s never ending, and it’s easy to get burned out if your mind is not set for the long hike. Challenging but definitely doable, though! I suggest starting the hike very early so you can give yourself lots of breaks in between, and pack enough water and food but keep it light so you won’t waste more energy by carrying a heavy pack 🙂

    1. Congratulations! What an incredible accomplishment! I love Yosemite but I wouldn’t have the stamina for that kind of hike. What a reward though, seeing all that beautiful scenery!

    1. This is so awesome! The photos are stunning and I wish I could do this, but I don’t know if I would be able to. I’m only used to doing very EASY hikes. I also had no idea that you had to get a permit for this hike. I went to the link and found out they only allow 300 people at a time. Makes sense 🙂

      1. Yes, they limit the number of people hiking in, for everyone’s safety and also to preserve the place -which does make a lot of sense.

        Thank you for your kind words, Candy! If you can’t make it all the way to the top, the hike to the waterfalls will also be just as good 😉

    1. Very cool. Great accomplishment. Great pics 🙂 I did not know you need a permit .

      1. Thank you, Rosi! Yeah, they issue permits to help moderate the number of people climbing. It makes you feel extra special too, when you get lucky with a permit 🙂

    1. This. Is. Rad!! I’m a frequent hiker myself and just recently accomplished my goal for the year as well! (5 day thru-hike in Mammoth Lakes) I’ve done some great hikes through Yosemite as well but haven’t done this one yet. You’ve just moved that up a couple notches on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!!

      1. Hi Desiree! Oh wow, that 5-day thru hike sounds intense, I’m sure Half Dome is nothing compared to that! Lol. Regardless, I’m sure you’re gonna enjoy doing Half Dome. Good luck and I hope you get to do it soon! 🙂

    1. Great job for completing the hike and taking those stunning photos! Those waterfalls AND the ‘ladder’… man… You go girl!

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